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“Blurred Boundaries”? Rethinking the Concept of Craft and its Relation to Art and Design



Art world talk of “blurred boundaries” and “hybrids” between art and craft, suggests that the philosophy of art needs to rethink the concept of craft. This can best be done by adopting four strategies: first, distinguish between craft as a set of disciplines, and craft as a process and practice; second, keep in mind the differences among craft practices such as studio, trade, ethnic, amateur, and DIY; third, recognize that craft’s relationship with design is as important as its relationship to art; fourth, attend to the role digital design and fabrication are playing in craft and art today. At the core of the craft process are three contested characteristics found in most craft practices: hand, material, and skill, although these are better understood as body, medium, and mastery. After discussing a fourth contested characteristic of many craft and design practices, function, I show that none of the four characteristics is a requisite condition for artistic practice today, yet none are excluded from contemporary (fine) art, despite its current “post-studio” or “post-disciplinary” tendencies. I conclude that the boundary between art and craft conceived as a set of disciplines defined by materials and techniques has not become blurred, it has all but disappeared. On the other hand, I show through an analysis of some references to “mere craft” by Stephen Davies and Arthur Danto, that craft conceived as a process and practice can be understood as distinct from art, but in a non-invidious sense.